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Monday, October 14, 2013

Making room in a tight budget for a little bit of fun

I double-checked my schedule, and getting sick repeatedly was definitely not in my plans. While I haven't been feeling very well, I have been pushing on in things. The worst of feeling bad, for me, was that I just didn't have brain energy to write anything.

There have been some moments of fun this past week, however. A girlfriend came over, one morning, with a big sack of apples from her neighbor's tree. The neighbor didn't want the apples, I think because they were basically flavorless. My friend and I turned those bland apples into some very delicious applesauce, adding lemon juice, cinnamon and a bit of sugar.

Another fun moment came about when my daughter announced that as a theater student at the university, she was obligated to usher some performances on campus. Universities put on a wide variety of productions, many of which are absolutely free to anyone willing to come. Some of the free offerings are recitals put on by faculty or students. This past Friday, there was a piano concert performed by a well-known faculty member.

The one hitch, we discovered with these obligations, is transportation for my daughter. These ushering requirements are fulfilled after hours that commuter buses operate. So, it meant that I'd have to drive downtown to pick her up, after the concert. It's not a huge deal, but the roundtrip drive takes about 1  & 1/2 hours, in the dark (when I can't see to read the signs in unfamiliar neighborhoods).

So, what to do, what to do? We decided to just make the best of the situation. If I'm going to have to drive down to get my daughter, I might as well go down early and enjoy the concert myself.

That's what I did. I met up with both of my daughters in the late afternoon. We had a bite to eat, then went and enjoyed a lovely piano concert.

About that bite to eat  --  we had origainally planned for it to just be a very small bite, then we'd eat something more substantial once home. But when we went over to the student union building, to check out the quick service places, we discovered that all perishable foods were 50% off after 5 PM. Well, lucky us! It was probably 5:02 when we walked in. If my drive to the campus had gone any faster, we'd have paid the full price! For $11, I had a large chipotle chicken salad, one daughter had a fruit salad, and the other daughter had a very large ham club sandwich. Not a bad deal at all!

In our budget, I leave a small amount of money for fun outings. Right now, that amount is $10 per month. (In the past, that amount has been as low as $4.) With our budget feeling so squeezed these days, it really helps morale to keep just a small amount for something out of our ordinary frugal pattern. We can look back and say to ourselves, "wasn't that fun the evening we went to the piano concert and had dinner in the SUB?" or, "getting ice cream cones at the $1 cone place really made that day feel special".

I know, $10 per month adds up to $120 per year, which does sound like a lot to us right now. If our budget begins to feel any tighter, then I could see us reducing that amount again. For now, we're willing to make concessions in other areas of the budget, to afford a very inexpensive outing or two per month.

What do you think? Do you think leaving a small amount like $10 per month, for fun, is reasonable, given our reduced income? What would you do? Do you budget for fun outings for your family?


  1. There definitely needs to be time for fun things. I think you're already figuring out that "All work and no play, makes Lili as sick girl." I hope you continue to be on the mend. You do what you have to do, but I would definitely keep the $10 in the budget as long as you have heat and something to eat.

    1. Hi live and learn,
      I think that you're right, only work just wears me down, even if the heavy work period is just a few weeks. And it's as they say, I don't want to reach the end of my time on earth and think, "gee, if only I had worked more".

  2. Welcome back, Lili. I have missed your blogging. :) I hope you are back to 100% very soon.

    I definitely think you should keep the $10 in the budget for fun! You feed your family so well on your very limited budget. You are also a whiz at conserving water and electricity. Your basic needs are being met and everyone needs a little fun!


    1. Hi Angie,
      Thank you for your well wishes! I am working hard, now, at getting really healthy.
      You know, I had such a great time at that concert, that getting back to regular work on the weekend felt a bit brighter. And I think that's the point of having some fun, to make us feel better about the work that we would rather not be doing.

  3. I think you always need something in the budget for fun. And I know you and your family are great at stretching a small amount of money into a lot of fun :)

    Universities are a great source of free things to do as well. At mine I'm currently a member of the community garden and the meditation club and was previously in the choir. Do your girls have opportunities like that?

    1. Hi Liz,
      Oh yes! There is so much going on on campus -- they're having a hard time limiting themselves! For now, they've joined the commuters group, which gives them access to the lounge, kitchen and dining area for commuter students, as well as activities each week. I had wondered where they would find a place to eat lunch and hang out, when the weather got wintry. And now I see that they have a place on campus, just for students like themselves. Plus, they are meeting up with other students who commute, and have signed up for carpooling, if someone else lives up in our area.

      The other really great thing on campus for each of them, is that they are already in their departments -- one in the art dept and the other in the performing arts. It gives them a sense of "belonging" right away.

      Can you tell? I'm really happy that they made this choice for their education.

  4. We definitely budget fun money. We have family and personal fun money. We used to try to do without this, ESPECIALLY when times were really tight, but we were unsuccessful, and we'd end up going much more over budget than we would have if we had just given ourselves a little fun.

    As a former piano major, we really appreciate people coming to performances. There are some fabulous recitals to be listened to. It's nice to put in all of that work and offer our musical gift to a full audience, not just a handful of people.

    I love those kinds of surprises--50% off when you weren't expecting it! Sounds like you had a really nice time with your daughters.

    1. Hi Katie,
      this was our experience, as well. If we didn't budget for a little fun, then we'd have the "woe is me" attitude and spend $100 or more on extra stuff.

      I am so glad to hear that musicians actually want a large audience. Because I am so happy to be a part of that audience. There's a student symphony performance next month that I've asked my daughter to sign up for ushering. Professional symphony tickets were out of our price range, but I had really wanted to go. So, this will be awesome. Now, to find free opera performances somewhere -- that's my other desire.

  5. I think as long as you are keeping all bills paid, you must build in a bit for fun. $10 isn't a huge amount! And if you hadn't eaten out, you would have been using more from your home food budget anyway. I can cut back on something else if I am not feeling deprived. Sounds like you have it all figured out and are spending great quality time with those daughters who will be grown before you know it. Money well spent!

    1. Hi Linda,
      Thank you for saying that. And you're right, we would have eaten something from our home supplies anyways, so that discounts what we spent a bit.

      I realize that I am blessed to have kids who actually want to spend time with me. I thoroughly enjoy all of their company. My son was home for Columbus Day on Monday, and I really enjoyed eating lunch on the deck and talking with him.

  6. I think $10/month to entertain a family of 5 is phenomenal! We are experiencing our own frugal entertaining these days, since the government job furlough continues--my hubby and I have been on a hike and were able to go to our local art museum during their "free Thursday". The plus side is that it's been fun to have recreational time together.

    1. Hi Kris,
      I am hoping that this shutdown comes to a close in the next couple of days. I feel so badly for you/your family and all the other families out there gogin through this.

      But you are making the best of a bad situation, it sounds like. Quality time with your hubby is really valuable!

      Oh, I had forgotten about free days at museums. I will definitely check the ones in downtown Seattle. Thanks for the reminder!

  7. I think it's the little splurges that keep us going when times get tough. The fun your family has with $10 sounds like a bright spot in your month... I don't think you need to feel like it should be spent elsewhere. It's only $10 a month - a small amount of money for all the joy it has the potential to bring.

    1. Hi rocaway,
      Thank you. I think as long as we can afford the $10, we'll continue. It does keep us going, and staves off feeling deprived. And that keeps us going on this frugal path.


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